The pattern of American police murdering people of color, an everyday reality for black communities, now  is widely recognized. The governmental failure to prosecute the culprits  induced large-scale uprisings in many American cities. The distinguishing mark of these protests is young Black women organizers. It seems that a new generation of civil rights activists with a radically different, matriarchial, approach is emerging.For instance, such organizations as Black Lives Matter,  Fearless Leading by the Youth(FLY), We Charge Genocide and Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100)— were led by Black women. Other Chicago-based activist groups, many of which have overlapping memberships with BYP100, were also emerging, including Project Nia, #LetUsBreathe Collective, the People’s Response Team, and Assata’s Daughters, which caters to black girls ages 6 to 17 and acts as a feeder program to BYP100.


School project or an organization?

Black Youth Project 100

Black Youth Project 100

Roots of BYP100 trace back to a 2004 University of Chicago research project. Cathy Cohen, a renowned black social activist and feminist, was a chairwoman of the school’s political science department back than. The idea of the project was to improve black youths` lives based on studies about their cultural and social backgrounds. “None of us went into it thinking, We want to create a new organization and it will be the BYP100,” says Cohen. “It was more that we wanted to make sure young black activists who we thought were doing really great work and building capacity to mobilize started to know each other. And maybe, we thought, they would build a network.”

On July 13, 2013, a former neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman was found not guilty of shoting Tracy Martin. The verdict incented Cohen to call for 100 young Black activists between the ages of 18 and 35 across the country to meet. She picked the right moment to  rally the group. “This was a very painful experience to, yet again, hear a reinforcement of the lack of compassion that the state has for black people,” Charlene Carruthers, one of BYP100’s primary leaders,­ revokes. “On the other hand, it was a moment of clarity around the necessity to do something . . . around building power for black people and in the service of liberation.” With so many things happening the actual organization with a mission and core value statement was determined on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, in Washington, D.C.

Black Youth Project 100Not only protests

From its early days BYP100 has gained mass while picking up momentum. There are currently around 300 members active in Chicago as well as in the Bay Area, Detroit, New Orleans, New York City, and Washington, D.C. Nationally. “We are not simply protesters,” Carruthers says, attempting to define her organization. “I do not identify as a protester. I’m an organizer. I engage in intentional campaigns and direct actions toward a specific set of goals. Does that include protest? Absolutely,” – says Carruthers. Within its first year and a half, BYP100 launched several social media and protest campaigns, including #DecriminalizeBlack, #Every28Hours , claiming that a black person in America is killed by an  officer every 28 hours, and “I’m Young, I’m Black and I Vote”.


The Generation Shift

The initial convening gathered activists from various parts of movements: artists, elected officials, LGBTQ rights and gender justice organizers, folks from labor unions. But mainly activists favor operating from a black queer feminist perspective. “We’re in a moment of evolving past the cis male charismatic leader, and forms of that leadership still exist,” Carruthers says. Cohen thinks: “ It’s a generational shift but also an ideological shift in terms of who’s doing the work—we’re reimagining black leaders and reimagining black politics,” she says. “This is part of how we make progress and how our politics, both in the black communities and outside black communities, evolve.”

Black Youth Project 100

What`s next?

Living boldly and seeking for world they want to live in.” BYP100’s “do all of our work from what we call the black queer feminism lens. “Which essentially means that we intentionally work to center the most marginalized people in our work.” For now the main aim of the project is to train a generation of young Black activists to create transformative change for all Black people.  “Black liberation isn’t going to be won by one or two people, it’s going to take many of us. . . . We work with each other because we care for each other, we love each other, and share many of the same values.”

Subscribe to WM Daily. Be In Touch With Rebellious Voices